How to quickly become a teacher in the US with an online teacher certification program

how to become a teacher in the US - woman teaching

Whether your heart’s already set on becoming a teacher or you’re entertaining the idea, there has never been a better time to start a new career teaching in the US. 

That’s because right now, the demand for teachers in the US is really high, so there are lots of job opportunities for aspiring teachers, which means your chances of getting hired are also super high!

Why is the demand so high? Long-story-short, due to rising teacher shortages across the country, the need for qualified teachers has skyrocketed.

Back in 2018, it was estimated that the US would be short more than 110,000 school teachers. But at that time, experts believed that those numbers would be higher than projected and continue to rise. Yikes! 

So, no surprise here but the country is in dire need of qualified teachers.

Luckily, there is a way to get more teachers in the classroom quicker: alternative teacher certification programs.

Alternative teacher certification programs open up more pathways for aspiring teachers through a low-cost, accelerated program. So, today the journey to becoming a licensed teacher has never been faster or more affordable.

But before we dive deeper into how you can become a teacher through alternative teaching programs, let’s take a look at what alternative certification programs are at a glance!

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What is an alternative teacher certification program?

Are you dreaming of shaping young minds, but don’t yet have a degree in Education? You may be at an advantage. With an alternative certification program, you can teach without a degree in Education — all you need is a bachelor’s degree (in any subject) to get started.

You may be wondering what an alternative teacher certification program is. In short, it is an accredited and state-approved certification program designed to help substitute teachers, educational assistants, career changers, or recent grads transition into a life-long teaching career at a much quicker pace than the traditional route.

Alternative teaching programs commonly offer a distance or on-campus learning curriculum, which typically consists of six months of intensive core coursework. The core curriculum covers areas ranging from pedagogical concepts to classroom management and specializations for K-12 elementary or secondary school streams.

Next up is a mandatory clinical placement or field experience that can be done in as little as three months, but the length depends on the program.

When you successfully finish the program, then you’ll have all the requirements needed to apply for a teaching license with your chosen state’s Department of Education. Once your application is approved, you’ll be a certified, fully-licensed teacher eligible for jobs across the country and beyond!

Today, you can be the teacher in half the time and money it takes compared to traditional pathways. Plus, the US government also provides financial aid to people enrolled in select alternative certification programs, which help make teaching more accessible for everyone.

So, if you’re serious about becoming a certified teacher, give the alternative certification route a try.

Road to teacher certification visual map.

Step 1: Hold a bachelor’s degree in any subject and pass required state certification exams to be eligible to teach in the U.S.

Already have a bachelor’s degree? Perfect! With a bachelor’s degree in any subject and a minimum GPA as outlined by your alternative certification program provider, you are eligible to enroll in state-approved teaching programs. Alternative certification programs are for people who earned a bachelor’s degree, so if you have one, you qualify.

Aside from having a bachelor’s degree, you will also need to pass required state exams before admittance in the program. Carefully read your state’s requirements and find out which exams are necessary for licensure.

The only caveat is that if you don’t already have a bachelor’s degree and you are starting from scratch, then it might be better to look into taking the traditional route by getting your degree in Education. As mentioned, this route is only for people who already earned their bachelor’s degrees.

And to become a licensed teacher in the United States, you must be legally eligible to work in the U.S. If you’re not already a U.S. citizen or have a valid work visa or residency, then it won’t be possible to become a teacher in the U.S.

So make sure you are eligible to work in the U.S. before you enroll in any programs; otherwise, you might be wasting your time and money.

You don’t need a degree in Education or any prior experience working as a teacher or as a substitute to start your journey towards teacher certification!

how to become a teacher in the US - woman studying online

Step 2: Enroll in an accredited teacher certification program.

Where do you see yourself teaching? Decide which state you want to teach in and then you can enroll in a state-specific program. Certification requirements for teachers vary by state, so you’ll want to know ahead of time where you want to teach.

Here’s a list of a few accredited certification programs currently available:

All programs are state-run, but that doesn’t mean you will be tied down to one state for the rest of your life. With a US teaching license, you will also be eligible to work just about anywhere in the country through teaching license reciprocity or even abroad.

So pick the state you want to start teaching in and enroll in a state-specific certification program today!

how to become a teacher in the US - woman studying

Step 3: Complete the core curriculum of the fast-track certification program.

The core curriculum will equip you with everything you need to know to inspire and mold tomorrow’s generation. You’ll learn from topics around core pedagogical approaches to classroom management and more through a flexible distance learning platform.

Alternative certification programs offer self-paced studies that can be completed wherever or whenever you want. That means you can continue to work full-time, travel, or take care of the kids at home, all while you get certified.

Are you itching to get out there and teach already? You can finish your core studies in about six months with one of our accredited Teacher Certification Programs (TCP). So how soon you complete the program is totally up to you.

Finish your core curriculum studies wherever you want and learn everything you need to know to be classroom-ready.

how to become a teacher in the US - teacher with students

Step 4: Finish the program with a valuable clinical placement experience.

When you've finished the core studies within your chosen subject area, you can take what you learned and apply it in a real-life classroom through the experience of a mandatory clinical placement.

You’ll get to immerse yourself in a classroom setting, build valuable relationships with school faculty and administrators and gain deeper insights into the workings of a classroom.

While you’re there, be sure to ask lots of questions and network with the faculty and the staff. There’s always the possibility of getting hired where you do your placement, so make an excellent first impression!

Your options on where to complete your clinical placement depend on the program you choose. And depending on the program, your placement could be anywhere from three months to a year.

If you decide to get licensed in Hawai’i, you’ll need to relocate there for your field placement. It’s the perfect option for those looking for a life-changing experience in a new environment or those already living in Hawai’i wanting to teach.

Not quite ready to take the plunge and relocate? Well, you’re in luck because some online programs like TCP AZ. allow you to complete your field experience wherever you may be in the world. If you’re currently abroad, this is an excellent option, so you’re ready to settle into a teaching job when you return home.

In as few as three months to a year, you could finish your clinical placement and be one step closer to arriving at the classroom.

how to become a teacher in the US - graduate

Step 5: Apply for State Licensure to become a certified US teacher officially.

So you finished your studies and clinical placement, passed your state required certification exams and have your degree in hand  –– great job! Now, it’s time to get licensed in your state so you can start qualifying for teaching jobs!

The first step is to formally apply to your state’s Department of Education so you can get your teaching certificate. The requirements and costs vary between states, so it’s essential to do your research first and ask your admissions team. This way, you can have everything prepared ahead of time to speed up the process.

The fees typically run between $40-$200, depending on the state you’re applying in.

And, as with any bureaucracy process, it is going to be slow and it might be a tiny bit painstaking to deal with all the required documentation, background checks, etc., but it’s imperative to be patient and not let that stop you from moving forward with the process.

Once you’ve received your license (yay!), it will be valid between one and five years and requires renewal every few years. The specific requirements and coursework for renewal will vary based on your state.

how to become a teacher in the US - teacher interview

Step 6: Start applying for teaching positions.

After becoming a licensed teacher, it's time to begin your teaching adventure! Once you have your credentials, you’ll qualify for teaching jobs throughout the state and beyond.

Because of the high demand for qualified teachers, you’re at a considerable advantage in regards to finding a job, so there’s no need to settle for anything less than what you want. Take the time to choose the school that’s right for you.

Polish up your resume, highlight all your relevant field experience and apply to schools that leave a good impression on you. Our team at TCP can help you along the way and provide support during your job hunt.

When you’re interviewing with prospective schools, it’s important to ask lots of meaningful questions and connect with current teachers to learn about their experiences teaching at the school. Be sure to listen to your gut and choose the school that’s right for you.

how to become a teacher in the US - teacher sitting with kids

Jumpstart your professional teaching career with an online teacher certification program

With new accelerated pathways towards teaching, you can start a lifelong career teaching in half the time and cost of the traditional route.

If you have a bachelor’s degree handy, are eligible to work in the U.S. and have passed state-required certifications, you’re ready to enroll in an accredited teacher certification program and take the first steps towards building a rewarding career as a teacher.

After you complete your core coursework, you’ll get the chance to immerse yourself in a clinical placement. Once you graduate, you can apply to your state’s Department of Education to receive your teaching license and start applying for teaching positions across the nation.

No matter where you are in life, it’s never too soon or too late to bring your dreams of teaching to life. Enroll in one of our accredited teacher certification programs and get certified today.

Happy teaching!